COVID-19 is forcing everyone and every industry to change how they function, and early childhood education is no exception. To be clear: early childhood education and child care take place in-person. That said, being able to use technology to support parents, children, and families during this time might be necessary for a variety of reasons. Ready to get started with your Zoom learning sessions? Here are some tips:
Figure out your goals
There are a number of good reasons to lead virtual learning sessions with your kids and parents, but what’s your primary goal? What’s your secondary goal? Knowing that from the start will help you better plan the experience. Here are some sample goals:
Be realistic about duration
How long do your circle times usually last in-person? Technology throws a whole new level of chaos into the experience. If your in-person circle times don’t last more than 10 minutes, your virtual ones probably won’t either.
Set parents up for success
As much as parents may want these virtual circle times to be a break for them, that might not be realistic. The age of your kids will dictate how much parent involvement is required for a successful and interactive virtual learning experience. Communicate with parents ahead of time so they know how they can participate and support. If you send out a schedule with song lyrics and movements and a clear request for parents to participate, they will be better prepared to sing along with their kids.
Consider smaller groups
Depending on the size of your class it may make sense to break everyone into smaller groups to allow for more interaction and conversation. A group of 10+ young children will be hard to wrangle in a virtual space. You might have more success with groups of 4-5.
Schedule at a time that makes sense for your little ones
Think about the usual schedules and routines of your kids. Don’t book during nap time.
To mute or not to mute
With a video tool like Zoom, you can decide whether or not to allow your participants to un-mute themselves. While no one wants to feel like they’re muting their kids, it can be challenging for others to hear a song or story if there is background noise. (We’ve all been on a Zoom call where someone doesn’t know they’re un-muted and it’s drowning out the speaker.) You may choose to have a portion of the circle time that is less interactive, where everyone else is muted while you read a story, and then later give everyone an opportunity to un-mute themselves to share and ask questions. There’s no one way to do this and you might just need to experiment with what works for you and your families.
With the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, providing virtual learning opportunities is something that may become more of a norm for early educators. As with most things in life, practice makes perfect, and while virtual circle time may never feel “perfect,” it can still be a necessary way to support your families and your business.
Is your virtual circle time feeling a little tired? Check out our ideas for how to mix it up today.
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